“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with,” penned the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “and then I can turn the world upside down.” Eugene Schwartz – easily the best copywriter of the 20th century – put it like this:
“Five to ten words will make up about 90% of the value of your ad. If you are right, they may start a new industry. If you are wrong, nothing you write after them will save your ad.”
Weighty words, but you’re a modern marketer bombarded by the allure of things strategy, automation, optimization, and more. So what do a couple of quotes from two long-dead white guys have to do with selling in the 21st century? Everything … because at the end of the day, one thing matters far more than all the fancy new tools and toys vying for your attention: words.
Words tell stories, grab the attention, evoke emotion, influence decisions, and drive action. Of course, I can hear you whispering from behind the screen:
“What are those words that ‘turn the world upside down’?”
“Where do I find them?”
“How do I pick the right ones to achieve my own marketing goal?”
“Is there a cheat sheet to guide me through them all?”
Yes. In fact, that’s exactly what this post contains … the ultimate guide to ultimate word guides: 1,733 words from the five best, most massive posts online.
What makes this word list stand out as the very first entry? Three things. First, its author. Henneke is the queen of killing “gobbledygook” and bringing “sparkle to boring business blogs.” She was even the inspiration behind Unbounce’s must-have writing app the Dejargonator Chrome Extension.
Second, its painstakingness. Henneke digs deep into the nature of power words themselves in a way that would make your English composition professor blush. The post guides you through three types of power words — seductive, emotional, and sensory — and each word is accompanied by brilliant examples on how to use it. More than that, Henneke shares bonuses, comparisons, and special notes along the way.
Third, its originality. Unlike the other guides below, Henneke doesn’t offer a spreadsheet or PDF download. Instead — in her usual animated style — she goes artistic with hand-drawn graphic after hand-drawn graphic illustrating the words in action.
She’s even been nice enough to put them all together in a one giant infographic you can only get here for the first time:
“When you use power words in your business content, you grab the attention of more people, your content becomes more influential, and people act on your advice. And what’s more … a careful selection of power words helps shape your voice.”
“Three different types of power words exist:
- Seductive words nudging people to take action—their persuasive power seems irrational, but is proven by science.
- Emotional words grab attention because they connect to our feelings.
- Sensory words are powerful and memorable because they make readers experience your words as if they can see the picture you’re painting with words.”
Not to undercut my introduction, but as Sarah puts it: “People connect to emotions, not words.” Words are merely a vehicle. Some words evoke “high arousal” emotions, others “low arousal.” Equally powerful, some words trigger curiosity, “one of the most powerful triggers for virality.”
Sarah structures her guide, which you can also download as a spreadsheet, around key emotions:
She then shows you where to place these power words in your headlines, subheads, product names, popups, landing pages, buttons, testimonials, email subject lines, domain name, and more. With each placement, she adds uber-popular and real-world examples of exactly what those words look like in practice.
P.S. Sarah’s vocabulary is resplendent! This bare factor makes the guide worth bookmarking or downloading.
“People are utterly seduced by power words. They get us to click, share and buy – what more could a marketer want!”
“Don’t just skip past this article and move on with your day. Take action to start including power words in your marketing today. Choose one option from the examples in this post and apply the power words principles to that area in your business.”
Please, don’t tell me you haven’t heard the name of Jon Morrow before. With two posts back in 2009 and 2011, Jon launched himself into web writing greatness. The first — On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas — eventually reached over 5 million readers and the aftermath was marketing “euphoria”:
Industry influencers were calling my work the greatest blog post ever written. Well-known magazines offered me as much as $5,000 per article to write for them.
As the internet guru of all those dreaming to inspire others with their writing, Jon calls “power words” the easiest way to “instantly become a better writer,” not just in novels and short stories but in “emails, resumes, blog posts, proposals” as well.
The list itself is broken up into seven categories, each of which has its own power-word-heavy subheading like “Call All Fearmongers,” “Stomp on Their Greed Glands,” and my favorite “Take a Page from Cosmopolitan (or Playboy).” And just like Sarah’s guide, you can download the whole thing, this time as a PDF.
“Sure, taking the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride is essential in novels and short stories, but what about emails, resumes, blog posts, proposals? They’re all designed to influence the reader in some way. You want to pass along information, yes, but you also want the reader to feel a certain way about that information.”
“For beginning writers, power words are one of the easiest tools to master. Unlike many storytelling strategies which can take years of practice to master, you can start sprinkling power words into your writing, and you’ll notice an immediate lift in the quality of your prose.”
What is the first word coming to your mind when you see the list of 700 power words? Crazy? Massive? Over-the-top? This one from Mary is a beast!
To make it manageable, she groups all her power words into eight categories, each one appeals to a particular human emotion: greed, curiosity, sloth, lust, trust, anger, and fear. She also explains how you can go beyond just “writing well” to actually boost conversions by using them strategically in a host of different online marketing collateral.
“You could see a 12.7% increase in your conversion rates simply by sprinkling a few power words into your copy.”
“Power words aren’t just for copywriters. They can be used by any marketer–even inexperienced ones–to motivate people to take a specific action on their website.”
“Whether you want to entice your visitors to read a blog post, opt in to your email list, or click the “Buy Now” button on your sales page, power words are arguably the quickest and easiest way to increase your conversion rates.”
The last but not least in the list, Kevan Lee’s guide has it all: scientifically proven facts on how a single word can change everything; the ultimate list of words (and phrases!) that convert, including but not limited to 5 most persuasive words, 20 most influential words, 10 cause-and-effect words, and 48 ubiquitous power words.
With reference to great minds like David Ogilvy, Jon Morrow, and Neil Patel, he explains where in the content to use each group of words, as well as gives advice on creating your personal list of power words to make the most out of your content strategy.
“I subscribe to the copywriting school of thought where every single word is absolutely worth stewing over and A/B testing because one single word can change everything. The difference between “joining” and “signing up” is the difference between fellowship and enlisting. A word changes the meaning, the mood, and the motivation.”
“The five most persuasive words in the English language: You, Free, Because, Instantly, New.”
“If you’re looking for inspiration (and a few unique power words to keep in your toolbox), try keeping track of the words that get you to convert. Take note of the words and phrases that grab your attention. Keep in mind why a headline stands out more than another. Notice which words grab you in a bullet list of benefits.”
“As you find new words, you can build a list in Evernote or another note-taking app; then be sure to reference them when you’re in a pinch and looking for a powerful addition to your headline, copy, or post.”
Looking for the right word?
Look no further. And don’t go on your hunt alone. Instead, be sure to do more than just read the summaries above. Visit the posts, download the guides, plaster them across your walls… and start using the right word – the word that convinces, compels, and converts – each and every time.
To paraphrase Nietzsche: “All you need is a screen and something to type with and then you can turn the marketing world upside down.”
Have I missed your favorite ultimate word post? Or, maybe you have your own power-words list that does magic to your content? Don’t hesitate to share it in the comments.